After returning from a two-game road trip, William and Mary (5-2) found its stride at home. Feb. 22, the Tribe defeated East Carolina (3-5) in a 4-2 win. The Pirates are ranked 48th in the nation, and key performances from the Tribe’s entire lineup helped topple them.
The Tribe fought hard to win their doubles point. On the third spot, freshmen Elisa Van Meeteren and Raffaela Alhach teamed up for an athletic win. Often, they would change positions in the middle of the volley, throwing their Pirate opponents off their rhythm. The win came off a four-game run. After being tied at two, the Tribe pulled ahead to win 6-2.
Seniors Rosie Cheng and Natalia Perry earned a win on the second spot, clinching the doubles’ point. The final score of 6-3 doesn’t reflect how tough the set was. Almost every game went to deuce, and the set was full of high-energy volleys. Cheng and Perry played out of the serve box for power, which bit them at first. They fought out of a 1-3 hole to give themselves a 4-3 berth. Good anticipation and placement sent them into singles with a win.
Cheng and Perry took the top two spots in singles. Perry on the No. 1 spot could not get off of her back foot. Pirate Lisa Hofbauer consistently put her serve in deep. Combine that with the crazy spin and wild arcs of the serve, and Perry found it difficult to return. She was blitzed 0-6 in the first and lost the second 2-6.
On the court beside Perry, Cheng went down 0-3 in the first set. Pirate Sibel Tanik cut steep angles that Cheng couldn’t reach, and the first set culminated in a 2-6 loss. In the second set, Cheng fought back from a three-game disparity and locked the score at 4-4. An overturned line call stopped Cheng’s momentum, allowing Tanik to take the match 4-6.
After an incomplete doubles match, sophomore Mila Saric made quick work of her Pirate opponent Michelle Ncube. After a 6-0 blitz in the first set, Saric took the next 6-2. Though her games were decisive, she still found a way to tire out Ncube through perfectly placed serves and cross-court shots, forcing Ncube to run and miss or make bad returns.
“My first serve, I had a high percentage,” Saric said. “That led me to be more aggressive and step on the court, go for the match and win.”
Van Meeteren took the No. 6 position. She played a long court, and even though she didn’t make use of its width, she went up 4-0 in her first set. After a berth, she tried a few new moves and won 6-2. The games she snatched, she won decisively, usually blitzing Pirate Minette Van Vreden or going up 40-15. The second set, she took 6-3.
“It’s very important to just keep fighting until the end,” Saric said. “Stay on the court as long as you can if you’re losing but win as fast as you can if you’re winning.”
Van Meeteren certainly took Saric’s advice to heart.
The Tribe’s clinching win came from junior Vitoria Okuyama. Okuyama won her first set 6-3, but struggled in the second set. Pirate Nastja Rettich tried to get around Okuyama’s long-court hustle by dropping balls just over the net, resulting in her winning the second set 3-6.
In the third set, Okuyama figured out Rettich, and adapted to her strategy. When Rettich ran into the serve box for a dribbler, Okuyama hustled forward and slammed it to the back of the court. She took the final set 6-1, giving the Tribe a 4-2 upset over the number 48 ranked team in the nation.
“For me, it’s very fun to see the fight,” Saric commented. “I think having all those long volleys, it’s very pumping and motivational.”
The next day, the Tribe was slated to face Wisconsin (8-1), ranked 21st nationally, at 11 a.m. Recovery was virtually non-existent for the Tribe especially after playing two great teams.
“We went into the match just kind of feeling like underdogs, but we were super pumped for it as always,” Cheng explained. “We didn’t really think of it like any other match or think of them as a ranked opponent.”
Doubles was another battle. Every team played twelve-game sets. Again, the second and third teams pulled through for the point, both culminating in 7-5 wins.
Alhach and Van Meeteren took the first game in a 40-0 blitz but lost the next three. They fought back from a 3-1 hole and tied it at four. Van Meeteren placed the ball on the brink of the bounds, and Badgers Melissa Pick and Christina Zordani failed to recognize its trajectory. In game 11, the Tribe pulled the advantage 6-5. Pick was on the serve for the final game and made four faults to put the Tribe up 30-0. The Tribe easily finished the set, winning 7-5.
Perry and Cheng played an evenly matched set, trading games back-and-forth until the 10th game. Perry’s eye for the bounds and Cheng’s serve combined for winning volleys throughout the set. They fought back from 40-0 clutches several times to maintain a lead, and eventually, in the 12th game, it panned out. They won 7-5.
Saric and partner Okuyama dropped the doubles match on line one, but they fought from a deficit the entire time, maximizing court time with long volleys and spike returns. Ultimately, they lost 5-7.
“I think it was great to get a point early,” Cheng said. And the team headed into the singles portion.
In singles, Van Meeteren finished first, giving the Tribe hope with a win. She was absolutely dominant against Zordani, collecting the sets 6-1, 6-2. Ending the weekend with double dual-match wins, Van Meeteren once again pulled through for the Tribe.
Perry finished her match second, playing in the second spot. Her first set, she went down 4-0 and wasn’t able to battle back, losing 1-6. Her second set lasted longer, but she dropped it 3-6. Badger Xinyu Cai mixed her shots between edges and crosses, and Perry couldn’t counter.
On court three, Saric got in her head. After returning several balls out of bounds, Saric went into a 5-0 hole. She fought back, but eventually she lost the set 6-4. She kept it closer in the second set, going 5-5 into the tiebreak. She forced deuces, but eventually lost 6-7.
Okuyama and senior Charlotte Madson both forced their matches to three matches. Madson had won her first 6-3. She relied on high arcing balls, and when she was forced to return low, it usually ended poorly. Badger Miruna Tudor capitalized on this weakness and took the next two sets, 3-6, 4-6.
Okuyama held out for a bit longer. She dropped her first set 1-6, but rallied back for a second win, 6-4. She refused to be distracted by steep angles and did not stop hustling, even for dribblers. In the third, she went down 5-1 but it was too late to dig back. A 3-6 loss sealed the Tribe’s fate.
Cheng took on the number one mantle for the week and was in the midst of fighting back when the match ended. She was leading 3-0 in her third set.
The Tribe will go on the road for the next four games, and it hopes to regain its momentum on the road, now that it’s almost a third of the way through the season.
“I think this team is doing great, practicing well,” Cheng said, reflecting on the team thus far. “We work together really well; we get along with each other really well.”
On March 1, the Tribe faces Duke, ranked 10th in the nation. In addition, Duke is currently 3-0 while playing at home while the Tribe is 0-1 away.